If I had to choose one book to take to a desert island, this would be it. The ageless "Song of God" is, of course, a magnificent, sacred scripture and not technically a novel, but its narrative form makes it read like one. The Gita tells the story of Arjuna, who turns to the God Krishna, his friend, for explanations and advice on life. Krishna lays out an entire worldview, the philosophy of Vedanta, one of the great achievements of human thought. Christopher Isherwood, an English novelist, and Swami Prabhavananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and Isherwood's guru, translate the Gita in a simple, modern style, alternating between prose and poetry without sacrificing the majesty and wisdom of this ancient story. Krishna gives Arjuna simple advice which I have found so useful in my own life, such as not to do anything for results, but rather for God: "You can have the work," he tells Arjuna, "but not the products of the work."
The exposures of fraudulent activity led to a rapid decline in ectoplasm and materialization séances. Investigator Joe Nickell has written that modern self-proclaimed mediums like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Rosemary Altea and James Van Praagh are avoiding the Victorian tradition of dark rooms, spirit handwriting and flying tambourines as these methods risk exposure. They instead use "mental mediumship" tactics like cold reading or gleaning information from sitters before hand (hot reading). Group readings also improve hits by making general statements with conviction, which will fit at least one person in the audience. Shows are carefully edited before airing to show only what appears to be hits and removing anything that does not reflect well on the medium.
The psychologist and psychical researcher Stanley LeFevre Krebs had exposed the Bangs Sisters as frauds. During a séance he employed a hidden mirror and caught them tampering with a letter in an envelope and writing a reply in it under the table which they would pretend a spirit had written. The British materialization medium Rosina Mary Showers was caught in many fraudulent séances throughout her career. In 1874 during a séance with Edward William Cox a sitter looked into the cabinet and seized the spirit, the headdress fell off and was revealed to be Showers.
"Pull a card and put it under your pillow at night. Let the energy of that card seep into your dreams," she said. "Wake up in the morning; observe the card. Read about what its different meanings are. Is it the major arcana or minor? Is it connected to one of the elements - fire (wands), water (cups), air (swords), or earth (pentacles)? Then notice during the day what happens that might have been a sign from the cards. It's pretty cool when you start connecting the messages."
The mediums ranged from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing experience, performing up to 18 psychographies per month. All were right-handed, in good mental health, and not currently using any psychiatric drugs. All reported that during the study they were able to reach their usual trance-like state during the psychography task and were in their regular state of consciousness during the control task.
The British journalist Ruth Brandon published the book The Spiritualists (1983) which exposed the fraud of the Victorian mediums. The book received positive reviews and has been influential to skeptics of spiritualism. The British apport medium Paul McElhoney was exposed as a fraud during a séance in Osset, Yorkshire in 1983. The tape recorder that McElhoney took to his séances was investigated and a black tape was discovered bound around the battery compartment and inside carnation flowers were found as well as a key-ring torch and other objects.
In 1954, the psychical researcher Rudolf Lambert published a report revealing details about a case of fraud that was covered up by many early members of the Institute Metapsychique International (IMI). Lambert who had studied Gustav Geley's files on the medium Eva Carrière discovered photographs depicting fraudulent ectoplasm taken by her companion Juliette Bisson. Various "materializations" were artificially attached to Eva's hair by wires. The discovery was never published by Geley. Eugéne Osty (the director of the institute) and members Jean Meyer, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Charles Richet all knew about the fraudulent photographs but were firm believers in mediumship phenomena so demanded the scandal be kept secret.
Often, I will do a Skype call with my best friend in the evening, when she is off work. She lays the cards out for me on her Turkish scarves then - ta-da! - the fortune-telling happens. Because she knows me so well, since we were pip-squeaks, it is helpful to have her insight on what each card forebodes. After the reading, I get to process it all with my pal then take it with me into my dreams.